What We Do in the Shadows – Review

For more than two decades, Nicholas Cage’s Vampire’s Kiss has been my hands down favourite vampire movie. But recently, that place of honour has been usurped by a group of flatmates from New Zealand.

What We Do In the Shadows is a mockumentary-style film about a group of vampires living together in Wellington, New Zealand. Ranging in age from 183 (Deacon, played by Jonathan Brugh, is the baby of the group, and, oh yeah, also happens to be a Nazi) to 862 (Jemain Clement plays Vladislav, who keeps a dungeon full of sex slaves and is known as The Poker) the trio (including Taika Waititi’s vampire Viago, a 379 year old dandy) share a flat along with 8,000 year old Petyr, doing the things that flatmates mostly do, which is to squabble about the housework and rent, go out clubbing, and try to stay out of the sunlight.

The creation of Clement (Flight of the Conchords, Eagle versus Shark) and Waititi (Boy), the film is sharp and dry, as well as touching and charming. Viago searches out a lost love, Vladislav wages war against his ex (“The Beast”) and Deacon is challenged by new vampire Nick (Cori Gonzalez Macuer), a regular guy who is accidentally turned into a vampire when he’s brought to the flat for the housemates to feed on. Nick struggles to learn the ropes, except he’s a bit of a bro-dude who doesn’t fit in. (A scene where Nick runs through the streets obnoxiously yelling “I’m a vampire!!” at people is a sweet and funny homage to Cage’s Peter Loew.)

Nick’s human friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford) also hangs around, helping out the vampires by doing those pesky tasks that need to be done in the daylight. Stu’s an IT consultant so he hooks up the vampires with some modern technology, but his presence causes some strife amongst the other undead of Wellington as he’s tracked by a group of werewolves who must stay polite and un-angered lest they morph into their hairy mongrel personas (“Werewolves, not swearwolves!”) headed by werewolf Anton, brilliantly played by Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords, Short Poppies), as well as some zombies and a community centre full of hungry vampires. Not to mention that Nick has given his email to a vampire hunter determined to kill them all. As a side note, apparently Rutherford, a friend of Clement and Waititi, was unaware as to the extent of his part when he agreed to be in the film, thinking he was merely an extra. So the scenes where he seems puzzled or scared are fairly genuine.

What We Do In The Shadows is brilliantly hilarious with some of the best sight gags ever – vampires vacuuming the drapes, doing karate, and best of all – trying to get dressed to go out clubbing without being able to see themselves in a mirror. It is sweet, funny, wry and even sexy (in that long-haired, top-hatted vampire kind of way) and is probably the funniest movie I’ve seen in a long while.

This film has won a huge number of awards at various film festivals over the past year, and deserves to be watched over and over and over again, it’s that fabulous.

What We Do In the Shadows opens at select theatres in Canada and the US on February 13th.